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Antoinette Frank

Mugshot of Antoinette Frank.
Born April 30, 1971 (1971-04-30) (age 38)
Opelousas, Louisiana, U.S.
Charge(s) Triple Murder
Penalty Death
Status Incarcerated at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, St. Gabriel
Occupation Police officer

Antoinette Frank (born 30 April 1971) is a former New Orleans police officer who was convicted of one of the most notorious crimes in recent New Orleans history: the robbery of a restaurant where she worked as a security guard, and the murders of three people, including her partner on the police force, who was also a security guard at the restaurant. Frank is one of two women on Louisiana's death row at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women in St. Gabriel, Louisiana.

Contents

Early life

Frank had an unstable childhood, but she wanted to become a police officer since she was a small girl.

Frank was from a broken family: her brother was a fugitive from law, her father would appear in her life only occasionally, and Frank became distressed about these issues, needing psychiatric help. It had been told by Frank that her father abused her sexually, mentally and physically when she was a child.

According to author Chuck Hustmyre, a former federal agent and author of the book about Frank, Killer with a Badge, when Frank applied to become a police officer in Louisiana, she lied about her psychological problems.

Police career

Antoinette Frank

New Orleans Police Department

Service/branch United States
Years of service 1993 - 1995
Rank Sworn in as an officer - 1993
Other work Convicted of 3 counts of first-degree murder

Frank was hired by the NOPD on February 7, 1993. She graduated from the Police Academy on February 28, 1993. Frank served in the New Orleans Police Department for less than a year and was hired despite being caught lying on several sections of her application. On November 25, 1994, Frank handled a shooting incident in which Rogers Lacaze was one of the victims. The DOC Department of Public Safety and Corrections investigator believes this was the first contact between the two, although in her statement, she claims that they met some eight months before the murder. The association between them became close and constant. Other police officers witnessed Lacaze driving her car and even observed him moving her police unit at the scene of an accident she was investigating. On one occasion, Lacaze accompanied her on a complaint call and she introduced him as a “trainee.” There were other times when Lacaze was introduced as her nephew. Frank refused to discuss her relationship with Lacaze during the DOC investigation, except to say that she was trying to help him. When asked why she would continue the relationship knowing that Lacaze had been involved in dealing drugs and in a shooting, she claimed that she would not disassociate herself from him just because of his past. The investigator also questioned Frank about trying to buy 9 mm ammunition for Lacaze at Wal-Mart on the day before the Kim Anh murders. She stated that she was a police officer and that there was nothing wrong with her buying ammunition. According to her statement, she claimed that she and Lacaze were not dating and had never been intimate. Frank refused to discuss anything regarding Officer Williams, the Vus or the murders. Every time the investigator asked her a question, she told him to “look it up in the record,” and asserted her innocence. However, during her interview with the DOC investigator, Frank did claim to have had a male suitor, but refused to go into specifics because he works for the police department.[1]

John Stevens and Anthony Wallace testified in court that they met Rogers Lacaze at a party on February 4, 1995. As the two were leaving the party, a verbal altercation between Stevens and Lacaze ensued. Wallace suggested that they leave, and the two men got in a car and drove several blocks. At that time, a police vehicle pulled the car over. Frank, in police uniform, exited the squad car and told both Wallace and Stevens to get out and go to the back of the car. At that point Wallace saw Lacaze and noticed that he was holding a weapon. According to Stevens, Wallace then rushed Lacaze and the two men began fighting. At that point, both Stevens and Frank also jumped in the fray and the gun went off. Stevens began running and then another man appeared and grabbed both Lacaze and Wallace. Frank then told the bystander that, “Lacaze was the good guy,” and that Wallace was the one causing the problems. Wallace was restrained until a back-up unit arrived on the scene. He was subsequently arrested and charged with attempted murder and armed robbery.[1]

Irvin Bryant, a civil sheriff in 1995, testified that on the evening of February 4, he observed a stopped police vehicle with the lights flashing. He thought that the officer was making a traffic stop, but as he got closer he saw the officer and two black males fighting on the side of the road. At that time Wallace broke away, ran and picked up a Tech 9 semi-automatic weapon out of the grass. Bryant ordered Wallace to drop the gun, which he did immediately. He then restrained Wallace, and Lacaze lunged towards him. He immediately grabbed Lacaze, but Frank informed him that Lacaze was with her and ordered him released. Furthermore, Mr. Bryant was never questioned by police and he never gave a formal statement.[1]

The murders

On March 4, 1995, Frank and LaCaze visited Kim Anh, a Vietnamese restaurant in New Orleans East. After midnight, as the employees cleaned the closed restaurant, Chau Vu, sister of two of the victims, went into the kitchen to count money. She entered the dining room of the restaurant to pay Officer Ronald A. Williams II for the night, when she noticed Frank approaching the restaurant.

Frank and LaCaze had been at the restaurant twice earlier in the night to get left over food to eat. When Chau had let her out on the last visit, she could not find the front door key. With Frank returning again for a third time, Chau sensed something was very wrong, so she ran to the kitchen to hide the money in the microwave.

Frank entered the front door using the key that she had taken from the restaurant earlier, and walked quickly past Officer Williams, pushing Chau, another of Chau's brothers, Quoc, and a restaurant employee into the doorway of the restaurant's kitchen. Williams started to follow asking them what was the problem when shots rang out.

As Frank turned back to the dining room of the restaurant, Chau grabbed Quoc to hide somewhere. LaCaze had been behind Officer Williams and shot him in the back of the neck, severing his spinal cord, instantly paralyzing him. The officer was shot again in the head and in the middle of his back, as he lay on the floor.

Chau, Quoc, and the employee hid in the rear of a large walk-in cooler in the kitchen, turning out its light as they entered. They did not know the whereabouts of Chau's and Quoc's other sister and brother, Ha and Cuong, who had been sweeping the dining room floors when Frank entered the restaurant. From inside the cooler, Chau and Quoc could partially see the kitchen and the front of the restaurant. Chau initially could see Frank looking for something in the kitchen. As Frank moved out of Chau's line of vision, additional gunshots were fired. Quoc next observed Frank searching where the Vus usually kept their money. Quoc saw Frank walk to the part of the kitchen where the bodies of his brother and sister were later found.

Frank and LaCaze were shouting and demanding the money. Ha and Cuong did not know where Chau had hidden the money. Twenty-one year old Ha was shot three times as she knelt pleading for her life and seventeen year old Cuong was shot seven times and pistol whipped. After Frank and LaCaze left the premises, Quoc emerged from the cooler, ran out the back door of the restaurant to a nearby friend's home to call 911 to report the murders. Chau tried frantically to call 911 on her cell phone, but she being inside the cooler she could not receive a signal.

Frank dropped off LaCaze at a nearby apartment complex, both knowing that there were witnesses left behind. Frank heard the 911 call on her portable police radio saying that an officer was down at the Kim Anh restaurant. She returned to scene, parked in the rear, entered through the back door of the restaurant. She made her way through the kitchen to the dining room where Chau waited for help at the front door. As Chau bolted through the restaurant's front door to the safety of arriving officers, Frank immediately identified herself as a police officer. Chau tells Frank she knows what she did and cries to the officers that Frank had performed the crimes.

Chau and Frank were questioned in detail seated at different dining room tables of the restaurant. Frank was taken to police headquarters for additional questioning, where she later confessed to the crimes along with LaCaze. Frank and LaCaze were arrested and charged with first degree murder.

Trial and conviction

Frank and LaCaze were indicted by an Orleans Parish Grand Jury on April 28, 1995. Their trials were severed, and LaCaze was tried first on July 17–July 21, 1995, found guilty as charged, and sentenced to death. Frank's trial began on September 5, 1995, and on September 12, 1995, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts and recommended a sentence of death as to all counts. She was formally sentenced to death on October 20, 1995.

Aftermath and current developments

Frank's father had stayed at her home not too long before the robbery, then he disappeared. The police found a human skull with a bullet hole in its head buried under Frank's house not long afterward.

On October 18, 2006, Frank's attorneys argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court that her death sentence should be overturned because she was denied state-funded experts to help prepare for the sentencing phase of the trial. On May 22, 2007, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the death penalty should be upheld.

On April 22, 2008 State Judge Frank Marullo signed the death warrant for Antoinette Frank. According to the warrant, Frank was scheduled for execution by lethal injection on July 15, 2008. In May, however, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a 90 day stay of execution effective June 10 pending ongoing appeals.[2]

On September 11, 2008, the day that the stay was to end, a new death warrant was signed by the same judge. According to this second warrant, Frank was scheduled for execution by lethal injection on 8 December 2008.[3] In a new round of appeals, defense attorneys said they have had little time to review voluminous documents in the case.

The Louisiana State Supreme Court ruling, made public November 25, 2008, effectively cancels a death warrant signed by a state judge in September.[4]

Legacy

In 2004, former ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) agent Chuck Hustmyre released a true crime book called Killer with a Badge, which is based on Frank's life and the restaurant murders.

The incident was also fictionalized in Season 6 of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street. The episode was titled "Saigon Rose."

In 2008, 13 years after her conviction, ex-New Orleans Police Officer and author of COP OUT and Legal Minds, Robert L. Davis, became the first writer to interview Antoinette Frank in person while on death row.

Sources

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Justice Kimball (2007-05-22), Louisiana Supreme Court opinion 1999-KA-0553, Public Domain  
  2. ^ "N.O. cop killer's execution canceled". The Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/metro/index.ssf?/base/news-28/121100177280080.xml&coll=1. Retrieved 2008-05-17.  
  3. ^ "Frank's death warrant signed". The Times-Picayune. http://www.nola.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/news-42/1221133452180620.xml&storylist=louisiana=1. Retrieved 2008-09-11.  
  4. ^ http://www.wwltv.com/topstories/stories/wwl112608cbexec.4b4e260.html







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